During Beck’s headlining show at Voodoo on Saturday, festival-goers were unwilling to stay "Up All Night" with the artist. 

beck photo at voodoo 2019 by steven hatley for my spilt milk
Beck at Voodoo 2019 on Saturday night, by Steven Hatley

Beck’s set at Voodoo Saturday night was a love letter to New Orleans. He claimed that “Night Running” was inspired by some of his nights in the Big Easy and ended the set with a small, onstage second line. Instead of the same old How are we feeling tonight Topeka?, Beck’s love for New Orleans seemed less rote. He asked sincerely, “Why is this city such a good feeling, a good vibe?”

Beck might’ve given New Orleans his all, but New Orleans didn’t give it back. For one thing, it didn’t show up. Most of the people who braved the swampy conditions Saturday ended their night with Bassnectar on the Le Plur Stage. Beck’s crowd made it to the soundboard but not much past it.

His show came just days after the release of teaser songs, “Hyperlife” and “Uneventful Days” from his upcoming Hyperspace, and Beck took Voodoo’s Altar Stage radiating an unmatched aura of confidence. He opened with an unidentifiable guitar riff that turned into the very identifiable “Loser” and baited the crowd with his more upbeat tracks, “Up All Night,” Girl,” and “Que Onda Guero.”

Beck made a little quip about the cold weather and encouraged everyone to get closer, then transitioned into the slower, groovier “Debra.” It was then that the show started to take a decline, with the crowd being either unwilling or incapable of meeting Beck’s appeals for participation.

Beck is known to busy his sets with unprompted monologues, jazzed up covers, and elongated acoustic sessions. Sadly, all of that requires an audience’s unrequited love for the music and some patience, traits festival goers often lack. Beck was met with a lethargic crowd, basically unresponsive after a day of heavy drinking and sloshing around in endless pits of mud.

After the first few songs, the crowd surrounding the stage dwindled down. There was a stark difference between people who wanted to see Beck, and people who wanted to hear “Loser.” Festivals invite listeners to check in and check out of sets because there's always something else to do or see. Friday night's audience for Guns N' Roses was in constant motion as people walked up to check out the band that had become a legend, then left 10 to 15 minutes later once they could say they'd seen it. Beck similarly invited that kind of viewing as a more mature audience in the context of Voodoo. The festival might not have been an ideal setting for the unconventional artist, but what was left at the end of the night was a group of diehard fans screaming, “I’ve got two turntables and a microphone.”